Traveling with a Baby
“Do lots of traveling now because once you have kids you won’t be able to travel.”
I’ve heard that many times. After returning from a trip to France in 2010 many friends and coworkers shared this advice. Usually with a slightly melancholy tone as they clearly wish they could travel more. Many times finances or other reasons get in the way of travel, but kids are the biggest reason I hear for staying home.
My wife and I aim to prove that it isn’t true for us. We went on our first road trip when Oliver was 1 month old. Driving 9 hours to visit family in northern California. The trip had a few rough spots, but nothing we couldn’t manage. Oliver did pretty well in the car, though he certainly was not happy with the length of the trip. After hearing about that trip friends said “Oh, well you need to travel while they are really young since they sleep all the time.”
Alright, maybe we did start off easy. It may be easier to travel when they are really young. So at 3 months old we went to Maui for a week. Oliver’s first flight. Maybe we should have started out with a shorter flight, but he did great. He slept for a couple hours and was generally happy. I found that standing in the back of the plane I could keep him entertained. The flight attendants were quite nice and had endless things to show him. Yes, he did cry some, but never for more than a couple minutes. Our fellow passengers were friendly and forgiving. But yes, we were briefly those people with the crying baby.
The next trip was from Boise to Kansas City. Two flights totaling 4 hours of travel time. Since we left in the evening Oliver slept almost the entire way and did great. One of the easiest, smoothest trips I have ever been on.
In March we went on our second road trip to Seattle. Visiting my sister and other relatives before continuing on to see my grand parents in western Washington. Oliver wasn’t thrilled to be in the car seat for the 8.5 hour drive to Seattle. So Hilary and I traded off sitting in the back seat keeping him entertained while the other drove. It wasn’t until a few weeks after we got back from that trip that Oliver would go into the car seat without crying.
From western Washington we drove up to Port Angeles and took the ferry over to Victoria. Officially marking Oliver’s first visit to a new country. After a couple wonderful days in Victoria, one of my favorite cities, we drove home.
This road trip was definitely more difficult for Oliver than the first one, but again, nothing we couldn’t manage.
Just to prove that the flight to Kansas City wasn’t a fluke, Hilary took Oliver down to southern California to visit family over Easter. I didn’t go on this trip, but I hear everything went really well. Flight #3 was a great success.
That brings to our current trip. Oliver is 8 months old and we are 2 weeks into a 5 week tour of England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, and Switzerland. I’ll post a follow up later about how the trip went, but based on our first couple weeks I am confident we can manage whatever troubles come up.
Part of the advice I’ve been given is great. You should travel a lot before you have kids. Then you should continue to travel after having kids. Soon I expect the comments to be:
“Well, it’s easy when you just have one kid. But the second kid will keep you home.”
Hilary and I hope to prove that wrong as well. Live your life and don’t use your children as an excuse.
My Tips for Traveling with a Baby
Check as much of your luggage as possible and security will be much easier to manage with a baby. Then while standing in line I take all loose items (phone, wallet, passport, keys, watch, belt, etc) and place them in my laptop bag. By keeping everything contained you have more hands free to maneuver the baby.
In the U.S. if you are flying with a child the TSA will send your entire group through a standard metal detector rather than the backscatter x-ray machines. It’s a nice side benefit.
Take off and landing.
Because of the pressure change Oliver sometimes gets fussy if he doesn’t have some way to clear his ears. Hilary usually nurses him, but if he isn’t interested in that sucking on a bottle or chewing on a toy works just as well.
If possible we try to get the two seats on one side of the aircraft. This way we are further away from other passengers and have more privacy. If the smallest number of seats in a group is three (on many regional planes) then we book the aisle and window seats in the back of the plane. Leaving the middle seat open. Almost every time that middle seat is never filled (since it is the worst seat on the plane) and we have the section to ourselves. If the plane is full and someone does book the middle seat we simply trade them for the aisle. I’ve never met a person who prefers a middle seat to an aisle seat.
Bring plenty of diapers along with several changes of clothes. Usually one of the airplane lavatories will have a changing table. It will be indicated with a small icon on the door. Even though the lavatories are small there is still enough room.
On our flight to Maui I spent half the flight standing in the back of the plane with Oliver. Between talking with the flight attendants and showing Oliver every object we stayed entertained. Anytime he would start to get fussy I would just walk around with him. It works great as it isn’t hard to stay out of the crew’s way.
Yikes. This was unexpected. We are currently 7 timezones away from home and Oliver is not adjusting well. This is partly our fault for taking a nap in the late morning as soon as we arrived in London. Most nights in the last week we haven’t been able to get Oliver to sleep before 2:30 or 3:00 am. Ouch. I’ve never had this much trouble with jet lag before. I don’t really have any advice either. I imagine each baby will be different.
If your child is small enough I recommend a baby backpack. Bringing a stroller is possible, but many of the places we are traveling to would be very difficult to navigate with a stroller. Also cobblestone streets tend to rattle a stroller so much it isn’t worth it. Between the baby backpack and a small front carrier we have what we need to carry Oliver. I prefer to be wearing Oliver in the front carrier for buses since I often need both hands free to walk or stand in a moving bus.
I’m not sure what is best with an older (heavier) kid. Just try a couple options and see what works best for you.
Since Hilary breast feeds Oliver this isn’t a big deal. I just have to make sure Hilary stays fed and happy. Oliver does eat some solid food. Typically we cook a vegetable and grind it up for him. While we brought a small baby food grinder, we haven’t used it very often.
Obviously I am fairly new at this. Older kids, and multiple kids, will change the dynamics and force Hilary and I to come up with new methods. But we are committed to figuring things out as we go and not using kids as an excuse to stay home.